Mural honoring George Martin coming to downtown Spearfish

A rendering by Desy Schoenewies, of the mural which will honor former city councilman George Martin and his love for the City of Spearfish. Courtesy image

SPEARFISH — A mural, commemorating the legacy of a prominent Spearfish citizen will replace the old work located on the side of the Sears building in downtown Spearfish facing Old City Hall Square.

A life-long citizen, city employee, councilman, and active member of the Spearfish community, George Martin passed away in July 2019, leaving a lasting memory of service, dedication, and appreciation for the city.

Desy Schoenewies, associate professor of art at Black Hills State University, will be leading a team of students to create the layout for the mural, much like the “Layers of Spearfish” on the Black Hills Salt Cave and Spa building located at 141 W. Jackson Blvd.

“One of the things that we are attempting to do, of course, is create Spearfish as being an arts and cultural destination and of course anything we can do to highlight and make Spearfish a place of interest for tourism and bring the money into our community is near and dear to us as well as an artist community,” Schoenewies said at Monday’s city council meeting.

Schoenewies said she spoke with Sue Hall-Martin, George’s widow, several times to get a sense of the aspects of Spearfish that Martin enjoyed most.

“Primarily things like him waking up every morning and heading to the airport to watch the sunrise come up over that ridge, also his playfulness nature, which is kind of the inspiration for this concept,” Schoenewies said. “The idea is a board game layout. Since George had a very playful personality, a very colorful personality, we wanted to guide the viewer through Spearfish and through various aspects that make Spearfish great that were also near and dear to his heart.”

Also incorporated in the mural are the Western Hills Humane Society, the High Plains Western Heritage Center, and the D.C. Booth National Historic Fish Hatchery and Archives.

“His love of construction is kind of right front and center, although some of my design team students say, ‘we should move the construction to the side and move the fish hatchery towards the middle,” Schoenewies said with a laugh.

Hall-Martin told the Pioneer there’s so much to appreciate about the concept, from the colors, to the locations, and the overall imagery of it; but there are two elements that she said really stood out as found remembrances of George.

“It was the backhoe (in the middle), and that backhoe was a second home to George,” she said. “He absolutely loved digging in the dirt with the backhoe, and it didn’t matter if it was a basement or a straight line for a water main … the flowers, too was just another thing; digging in the dirt and planting flowers.”

Sue also said she particularly appreciates the little dog curled up in the corner as a tribute to George’s relationship with their family pets throughout the years.

“That just made me smile because he just hated our cats and we took care of my daughter’s dog and that dog just loved him,” Hall-Martin said with a laugh. “I love it, I just love it.”

Schoenewies’s college class will be assisting in designing the layout of the mural under her direction but the community at large will primarily paint the actual mural.

“What we’re hoping to do is incorporate as many people in the community as possible to physically be involved in the painting process,” Schoenewies explained.

The mural will be set up as sort of a large-scale paint-by-numbers. Kits, containing sections of lightweight cloth and corresponding paints will be distributed to groups around the community to be filled in. As the sections are collected, they will be glued to the side of the building to create the finished piece.

“So, what we’re going to do with these sections is we’re going to create kits that we can take to nursing homes, to the Canyon Hills Center, to, hopefully, the Northern Hills Training Center, and to a lot of the other localities,” Schoenewies said. “All of the Spearfish schools are already on board.”

“That’s such a neat idea. Who would of thought that you could use something like that,” Hall-Martin added. “George loved community involvement, and I think that this mural is going to promote and foster a sense of community involvement and ownership to those people who participated in it and I know that he would just love it simply for that reason. … I appreciate it, and I appreciate the city remembering George.

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